Sometimes you just have to sit back and smile at your Florida Panthers. Even with a 99.99999% chance of making the playoffs the good old head-scratcher teams of the prior 12 years can come back to haunt the team in a span of 45 seconds. Lets put it this way, Florida doesn't need to be good anymore, they just need to be mediocre. And that's exactly what the Panthers were. The Minnesota Wild on the other hand fall into the category of teams the Panthers just can beat along with Ottawa and Los Angeles, but in five games time it will all be water under the bridge. The unfortunate reality for the Panthers with such easy opponents is that they're usually playing for pride rather than dishonor, whereas the Cats are simple coasting to the finish line. It will be good enough in the end, anyways.
It's not the end of the world, on the contrary losing in regulation would have been the real heartbreaker; it's all about perspective for this team. Just step back from the edge and smile at your team until tomorrow.
-1:03 Kyle Brodziak(21) unassisted
-13:16 Fleischmann(25) PPG assists to Jason Garrison and Campbell. The Soup is hot with his 46th and 47th assists.
-19:29 Erik Christensen(6) unassisted
-00:15 Mikko Koivu(12) assists to
- Scottie Upshall would be promoted to the top line(Hallelujah!) with Kris Versteeg back on a line with Wojtek Wolski and Shawn Matthias. The top line would have a glorious chance as Uppy dragged Nicklas Backstrom out of position and passed it to Stephen Weiss who had a yawning cage, but Marco Scandella would deflect it out of the way.
- Jason Zucker would get the solo lap in his first career NHL game, something I haven't seen in a good while. Rite of passage for Panthers prospect Drew Shore's former teammate at DU.
- Best jerseys in the NHL? Without a doubt Minnesota's green third jerseys, which I was sad to see they weren't wearing. Instead, Minnesota donned their regular red green things that make me want to stab my eyes.
- Tomas Fleischmann really likes to make errant passes that are easily picked off. You'd think after gifting Montreal a 2-1 lead the game before he'd be more cautious, but again a weak pass on the powerplay gave Darrol Powe an unnecessary scoring chance on the powerplay.
- For a Florida-Minnesota matchup, the game would be pretty exciting through the first period with a surprising number of scoring chances. No folks, you're reading it correctly. I was excited by the Wild.
- Cal Clutterbuck is an interesting player, I watched him grow into his current form through divisional matchups with Colorado, Clutterbuck is an essential part of the Minnesota roster that makes playing against them difficult. Besides having spectacular goaltending and stingy defense, add in a perennial league hitting leader with surprising scoring upside to wear down the opposition and you have a good reason why at one point the Wild were leading the league earlier in the season. Clutterbuck isn't reckless either, there's a reason you never hear his name in the weekly suspension report. As far as I'm concerned, he is the exact type of player Dale Tallon needs to target in the draft.
- After the Christmas break, the Minnesota Wild and the dirty word "regression" have gone hand in hand; a horrendous second half has seen the same Wild who were leading the league eliminated from the playoffs just a few games ago. While the statistical analysts smugly claim they saw it coming, in reality there is no way to predict when a team will get hot or blow their season. The Panthers and Wild are two eerily similar teams, but for whatever reason the Panthers hung around while the Wild dropped when pundits predicted the opposite would happen. If people saw Minnesota's downfall coming, they would have seen Florida making the playoffs and they'd be cashing in from the odds-makers at Vegas. Indeed, envisioning regression is a load of crap.
- Could Scottie Upshall score at a better time? For a player who's season has just gone down the drain due to injuries and having a hard time making a splash on the roster, Upshall gets thrown willie-nillie onto the top line as Dineen looked to switch things up, then sinks a shot glove-side on the powerplay. Welcome back, Upshall I was so excited to sign in the offseason. Inserting Uppy on the top line worked wonders for Flash and Weiss compared to what Versteeg was bringing lately.
- Kyle Brodziak would add to his career high in goals as the Panthers defensive pairing collapsed on the wrong side of Jose Theodore and Brodziak was able to corral the rebound and backhand the puck past Theodore to even up the game.
- Props to whoever was mixing the music and the organ player at Xcel Energy Center. Good stuff.
- Panthers prospects Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau would be in St. Paul to see the action from the club that drafted them. They got a first hand view of what the Panthers need out of the two players, offense.
- With the Panthers drawing two penalties in 8 seconds, then a Versteeg penalty 3 seconds after that, Florida would have a 4-on-3 powerplay to work with, resulting in a Tomas Fleischmann goal as Flash lifted the puck over a sprawling Backstrom to regain the lead.
- Sean Bergenheim either takes a penalty of hits the post each night. Tonight he hit the post before Tom Gilbert blatantly pushed the net off its moorings.
- With the net empty, Minnesota's last ditch effort would pay off as Erik Christensen would tie up the game with less than a minute remaining. That's four straigh games going to extra innings.
- And wouldn't you know it; with traffic circling in the neutral zone Mikko Koivu would catch a miscommunication between Panthers players to split the defense and sweep a goal past Theodore just 15 seconds in. Meltdown in 46 seconds, but a points a point.
Chris' First Star: Tomas Fleischmann had himself a pretty good game along with Campbell and Upshall
Chris' Worst Star: Kris Versteeg is lost. Like Australian Outback searching for answers lost. Pressbox ahoy!
Up Next: Florida meets up with the worst team in the league tomorrow in the great town of Columbus, Ohio. Yes, the Blue Jackets are coming off a huge win over Detroit and the Panthers are finishing off a back-to-back, but lets be real; this is a game Florida should win under any circumstances. It has trap written all over it, but Florida can't afford to screw up. Oh yeah, and it's the triumphant return of Upshall to the team he bolted from over the summer. Panthers at ze Jackets, 7pm.